Crown Prince Zan Eldermont Meets Haradra of the Depths

“Cobb!  Cobb!” a voice yelled fervently, a hint of desperation in the last.


Hamish Cobb, first mate of the royal flagship Warhawk, looked up from the charts and maps he had been studying.  He sat in the captain’s cabin, plotting a course towards the largest naval battle the world of Kempin had seen in centuries.


The voice belonged to Martin Brink, the second mate.  Brink was not a man prone to panic or fear, so the urgency in his voice spurred Cobb out of his chair with haste.  He threw open the cabin door to see several crewmen, Brink included, pointing upwards, towards the crow’s nest.  Cobb’s eyes followed their fingers, and an icy fear gripped his chest.


There was no mistaking the raven-haired boy with the impish expression as he clung to the railing of the crow’s nest encircling the top six feet of mast.  And clung with only one hand Cobb noted.  Three-year old Zan Eldermont, the crown prince of the kingdom of Eldermont was grinning as he waved down.


“Papa Cobb!  Look how high I got!”


“Gods above,” he muttered.  Despite his fear, he willed his voice to take on a calm, even tone.  At least he hoped it sounded that way.  He knew he mustn’t panic the lad.  If the prince should panic and fall to the deck, he could be seriously injured, or worse.  And there was no healer on board.


He must have snuck onboard through that blasted painting, he mused.  He shook his head to clear it.  There would be time for blame and recriminations later.  Cobb had to get him safely down first.  Then he could blister the boy’s hide for doing this.


“You’ve gotten yourself quite high there, lad,” Cobb shouted up.  “But I need you to grab that railing with both hands, lad.  Both hands.”


Cobb gave a silent sigh of relief when Zan complied.  But the boy was still in danger.  One slip could send him plummeting to the hard, unforgiving wooden deck.


“Now, you stay put, lad, and I’m gonna come up to get you,” Cobb shouted.  He turned to Brink.  “Bring up the fish nets from the hold and be ready to catch him in it should he fall in the meantime.”  Brink nodded and dashed off towards the ladder, shouting commands to other crewmen to assist him.


Cobb toed his boots off as he smiled up, trying to project calm to the boy.  “Hang on there, son.  Papa Cobb’s coming to get you.”


The sea had been calm all day, and the weather fair.  But just as Cobb started towards the mast, a huge swell caught the boat, tilting it dangerously to starboard.  Cobb managed to keep his footing, but watched in horror as Zan lost his grip and plummeted into the sea.


Cobb had crossed the deck, vaulted himself off of the railing and into an arcing dive before he even knew what was happening.  He heard someone shout “man overboard,” and was surprised to realize it was his own voice.


Cobb knew that Zan could swim like a fish, he had taught the young lad himself.  But these were much colder waters than the boy was used to.  And hitting the water from that height would knock the wind out of a full-grown man.


Cobb pierced the icy water with barely a splash, and quickly surfaced.  He desperately scanned the area as he tread water.  “Find him!” he shouted back to the ship.  There was no sign of the boy.  Not seeing him on the surface, the sailor took a deep breath and dove.


It was stretching into twilight, and the water was still churning from the sudden swell which rocked the boat.  Visibility was poor. Cobb kicked and tore at the water, going deeper, continually spinning and turning, looking for Zan.


Finally, he saw the boy, and his heart leapt.  He was unmoving and unresponsive as he gently sank beneath the sea.  Cobb swam hard towards him, fear propelling every stroke.  He knew the boy would not last much longer without air.  As he drew within mere feet of the young prince, two blue, giant, webbed and scaled hands reached up from the depths and wrapped around the boy. The hands pulled him down, down, into the abyss.  As he was dragged down, Cobb saw a woman’s blue, scaled face smile up at him as she drew the boy into her embrace.


“No!” Cobb shouted, instinctually, expelling the last of the precious air in his lungs.  Despite that, Cobb dove farther down, clawing and ripping at the water, trying to catch the pair.  His traitorous lungs were on fire now, trying to draw breath where there was none.  His head pounded, and his vision began shrinking as blackness creeped in from all sides.


Vax Eldermont was the son Cobb had never had.  And his son, Zan Eldermont, meant more to Hamish Cobb than anything else in the world.  So, it was with a heart-wrenching anguish that he turned away from young Zan and began a desperate swim for the surface.


Feelings of shame and failure and selfishness lashed at him as he frantically tried to reach the surface.  For one brief moment he almost succumbed to that burning desire to breathe, just once, knowing it would mean his death, and Zan’s.  But a memory flashed in his mind, one that meant that all might not be lost.  He clung to that hope and used it to propel himself faster upward.  He breached the surface with a gasping scream.


“Haul me up, you bastards!” he shouted.  Ropes were quickly tossed to him, and he was pulled aboard.  He shouted orders as he ran to the captain’s cabin.  “Drop sail and drop the sea anchor! Man the oars and keep us here!  Do not move from this fucking spot!” he shouted as he threw open the door to the captain’s cabin and dove through the magical painting.




Jasper Nithercott, Chancellor of the kingdom of Eldermont, was in the dining hall of Eldermont Keep.  The move to the new crimson castle was almost finished.  It was furnished now, somewhat.  There were many more rooms to furnish and fill, but the major areas were ready.  He was meeting with the chef, Henri, and the kitchen staff about transferring the contents of the keep’s pantry when the doors to the hall were flung open wide.


Cobb strode in, dripping wet, his face a mask of fury.  For a moment, he reminded Jasper of a vengeful sea god, arising from the depths to punish the evil surface dwellers.  He put that notion aside and started to speak, but Cobb had crossed to him and spoke first.


“Haradra of the Depths has kidnapped Zan,” he stated.  “I need the Helm of Ordune.  Now.”


“What?” Jasper replied.  “Zan?  But he’s here.  At least I thought he was.”  He turned to one of the guard’s, Dino’s Dogs, and barked a command.  “Begin a search immediately!”


“There ain’t no time for that,” Cobb implored.  “He ain’t here, I tell ya.  He’s a thousand feet under the sea!”


Jasper, normally calm and composed in most situations, seemed a bit rattled.  “But the queen just left herself!  Perhaps we can get word to her, or the king.  Or the other Heroes.  But in any event, I can’t just give you the Helm!  It’s too dangerous.”


Cobb could take no more.  He grabbed the chancellor’s shirt in both of his large, strong hands and pulled him in close.  “Now, you listen to me you jumped up little twit!  I ain’t got time for dithering.  There are only four people in this whole, miserable fallen world that I care about.  Vax, Bea, Valeria, and that little boy!  You will give me the Helm of Ordune!”  He shook the chancellor violently back and forth.  “I AIN’T ASKIN’!”


Jasper’s eyes widened in fear as his previous impression of Cobb as a vengeful sea god came back to him.  Saltwater dripped out of his thick, grey beard, and he stunk of salt and brine.  He had never seen Cobb like this.  He had always come across as the avuncular, good-natured first mate.  Seeing him now, Jasper remembered that before this life, Cobb had been a pirate of the Crimson Coast, and a successful one at that. 


Cobb tilted his head, and gave Jasper a smirk.  He spoke, but not to Jasper.  “Don’t come any closer, Dino,” he said without turning around.  “Or I’ll break his neck like a twig.”


“No, you won’t,” Dino said.  The leader of the keep’s guards’ voice seemed entirely too calm for this situation, in Jasper’s considered opinion.  He was standing ten feet behind Cobb, his hands empty, but loose at his side.  Four more guards stood behind Dino, all looking towards Dino for guidance.


“You’re not one to kill a man in cold blood,” Dino said lazily.  “Let’s talk this out.  No one has to get hurt.”


“I’ll get what I came for,” Cobb said, defiantly, and had yet to turn and look at Dino.  He continued to stare at Jasper, shaking him again, for emphasis.  “Jasper here has the key to the vault.  So, he’s going to get the Helm for me.  Now.”


Jasper looked past Cobb to see Dino silently gesturing the other guards to encircle he and Cobb.  “You know I can’t let that happen,” Dino said calmly.


“There ain’t no time!” Cobb shouted, and Jasper heard the desperation in his voice.  Desperation and resolve.


“Let’s get ahold of Vax,” Dino suggested.  “He can get –”


A sandstorm suddenly appeared in the hall, interrupting Dino’s attempts to placate the bald first mate.  The winds howled and swirled in the hall, blinding everyone with biting, stinging sand.  The cyclone-force winds pushed everyone back from the center of the room, save Cobb and Jasper.  Then, as suddenly as it began, it stopped.  The winds died, leaving only the gentle sound of sand falling onto the stone floor.


Standing in the center of the room, swaddled in cloth from head to toe, was Kesh, the strange mage that was the companion of Queen Beatriz.  Tucked under one arm was a blood-red iron helmet – the Helm of Ordune.  She reached out to Cobb.


“Hamish Cobb! Come with me if you want to save the boy!”  she shouted in a commanding, almost other-worldly voice.  Seeing that she had the helm, Cobb smiled and quickly grabbed her hand.  As he did, Kesh intoned a guttural incantation that could only be heard, but never remembered.  Suddenly, both she and Cobb transformed into what seemed to be statues of themselves, carved out of sand.  But the statues quickly disintegrated into inert piles of sand upon the floor of the hall.




Cobb shook sand off of him as he realized that they were in Vax’s study in the keep.  On one wall was a painting of the pigment mage Voccaro’s study.  On another was a painting of the captain’s cabin of the Warhawk.


Kesh handed the Helm of Ordune to Cobb and cast another arcane spell upon him.  “There!  You will be able to breathe underwater for a day.”


Cobb shook his head, confused.  “Not that I mind the help, lass.  But why are you doing this?”


Kesh was clothed from head to toe in clothes and wraps, so that not even an inch of skin showed.  She wore a cloth mask and goggles that completely obscured her face, and always wore a hooded cloak. No one knew what Kesh looked like, or even what race she was. She shook her head.


“Beatriz and I are closer than friends, closer than sisters,” she stated.  “Our fates are bound together.  She knows that I will always act in her best interest, as you would for Vax.”  She pulled out a strange ornate key with a metal cylinder at the end.  “She entrusted me with her vault key, should the need arise.”


Cobb nodded.  He knew about loyalty and devotion.  It was the core of the man.  “Then let’s be about it, lass,” and stepped towards the painting.


“I cannot,” Kesh said as she reached out to grab his arm. “I would not survive submerged underwater for that long.”  Her voice caught in her throat.  “You must fulfill my obligation to the queen, Hamish Cobb.”  She pulled a metal torc off her wrist, rubbed it with moss pulled from a pouch, and it began to glow with bright light.  She placed it on the sailor’s wrist.  “Here.  This will allow you to see in the darkness of the depths.” 


Suddenly, there was a pounding on the door, and shouting from the outside hallway.  Kesh made intricate motions in the air in front of her with her hands, and chanted an invocation.  A large wall of sand appeared, covering the door.


“Go!” she shouted.  “I will hold them off as long as I can.”  A thought struck her.  “Wait!  What about Zan?  If you get him, how will he breathe so far beneath the waves?”


Cobb simply smiled and patted a pouch on his hip.  “Not to worry, lass.  “Vax left me a potion of water breathing.”


Crash! came the sound of an axe splintering the wood of the door.  “Then go, Hamish Cobb!” she implored.  “Do your duty to our lieges, and I will do mine.  None will pass that door while I live.  Save the prince!”


The bald old sailor gave a solemn, respectful nod of thanks to the strange mage, and dove through the painting.




Cobb re-emerged thousands of miles away into the Warhawk’s cabin.  He ran on deck and quickly shouted orders to empty a metal mine of hellpowder, and tied himself off to it.   


Several crewmen carried to the railing where Cobb readied himself.  Brink came up to him and put a hand on his arm.  “Go get our boy back, Hamish.”


Cobb grunted as he lifted the mine and carried it to the edge.  The Helm of Ordune was tucked under one arm.  “Damned right, Martin,” he said and jumped into the sea.


As he hit the water, Cobb felt a brief moment of panic, remembering his near-drowning earlier in the day.  But Kesh’s magic was true, and Cobb breathed deeply and freely under the water.  The weight of the mine quickly plummeted him deep into the darkness.


He fell and fell and fell.  It likely took minutes to reach the ocean floor, but to Hamish Cobb, it felt like hours.  He was racing to a confrontation with Haradra of the Depths, a being of unimaginable power.  He felt fear, but it was not for himself.  Like all sailors, Cobb knew that the sea was unforgiving.  He had seen too many men drowned, and he could not even now push away horrific visions of a lifeless Zan floating in the sea.  He clutched the Helm of Ordune closely to his chest.  If the boy was dead, there would be a reckoning.  I swear to Moch, he thought as he fell, I will end this bitch’s life if she’s harmed him.  Even if it costs me my own life, I will have vengeance


He looked around as he thought he heard a voice give a long, sibilant whispered “Yessss.”  But he shook his head and chuckled mordantly.  He was clearly alone as he sunk beneath the sea.  It had to be his mind and nerves playing tricks on him.


Looking down, he saw a glowing blue light.  As he drew closer, he saw thousands and thousands of glowing fish swimming round and round in a large circle above the ocean floor.  They illuminated a bare spot on the sandy bottom, creating a clearing of sorts, lit by their phosphorescent glow.  Cobb felt ocean currents guiding him unerringly towards the center of the circle. 


He stared in wonder as he landed gently on the sand directly in front of a towering creature.  The woman was eight feet tall, with blue skin and scales. Arcane twisting tattoos adorned her entire body. Her long stringy grey hair was bedecked and adorned with shells and several small starfish. She had an aura of power, and of majesty...but also that feeling of decay and waste that comes to mind when thinking of the deep ocean.


In front of her was a stone altar tall as a man.  Atop the altar was a spinning top, like a children’s toy. As the top would near the edge of the altar, her hand would whip out and set the top to spinning again. The creature seemed to be keeping track of the top almost constantly.  Cobb saw a replica of the Warhawk on the altar as well.


Looking past her, Cobb’s heart filled with joy as he saw Zan Eldermont encased in a bubble of air.  The boy laughed with delight as the bubble bounced around the ocean floor.


“Give me back my grandson!” he shouted.


Haradra looked up from the altar, as if noticing him for the first time.  A casual wave of her hand set the top spinning again.


She spoke, and her voice was melodious, but unnerving.  It was as if her voice was a physical thing, sliding in and around him with a bubbling trill.




“I know who the fuck you are, lady,” Cobb interrupted. “This ain’t no tea party, and I don’t need no fucking introductions.  Give me back my grandson and I’ll be on my way.”


HAMISH COBB.  YOU ARE RUDE FOR AN UNINVITED GUEST.  She turned her head to look at Zan, and then looked back at Cobb.




Cobb gave a snorted chuckle and shrugged.  “So what?  Who said blood makes a family?  My old man was of my blood, but he never gave two shits about me.”  He pointed to Zan.  “His father is my son, in all the ways that matter.  I chose Vax, and he chose me.  That makes Zan my grandson, blood or no blood.”  He tilted his head up and stared the sea witch in the eyes.  “And I’m taking him back.”


Haradra gave a bubbling, condescending laugh.  Dark shadows, impossibly huge, crowded the circle at a wave of her hand.  Shapes of giant sharks, squid, octopi, whales and other leviathan Cobb did not recognize loomed all around them. 




Cobb shook his head. Everything she had said was correct.  He didn’t belong here, but neither did Zan.  The thought of leaving without him never crossed his mind.  He refused to abandon his grandson.  They would leave together, or die here together.  But they would not die alone. He looked up at Haradra and gave her the smile of a man with nothing left to lose.  A man who saw his death coming, and was at peace with it.  The smile he gave the powerful sea witch was the smile of a man who was determined to make his murderer pay full price for his death.  He shoved the Helm of Ordune on his head.


The helm was made of blood-red iron, shaped and crafted into a hideous death mask.  The old sailor’s knees buckled and he knelt in the sandy silt of the ocean bottom as images raced through his mind.  Powerful, disturbing, horrific images of death and slaughter, of human sacrifice and rituals played in his mind’s eye.  He saw visions of the Helm laying waste to thousands.  Great armies and helpless innocents all fell before the Helm. 


Yessss, it whispered in his mind.  At lassst…


YOU ARE A FOOL, HAMISH COBB, Haradra shouted, but Cobb heard the fear in her voice.  YOU RISK YOUR MORTAL SOUL FOR A PITIFUL PLOY THAT CANNOT HARM ME.


The visions receded, mercifully.  He felt his senses return as a warmth enveloped him, as if he were under a desert sun.  He thought he smelled exotic spices and heard strange voices in strange languages in his mind, but as if from far away.


His first instinct was to rip it off his head, to stop the helmet from intruding even further into his mind.  But he saw Zan floating lazily in his bubble behind the sea witch, and lowered his hands.  He noticed that all the sea life arced and swam away from him.  Even the hulking, shadowy leviathans slunk back away from him.


“This fucking helm was going to be enough to enough to kill that bitch SHE,” Cobb spat.  His voice sounded altered and tinny in his ears.  “And I’m betting it’s enough to take out you!”




Liesss…the helm whispered to him.  Alwaysss liesss.  We can choose to spare you.  Give usss the witch as a sacrifice, and we will spare you and the child.


Cobb tried to push the helm’s pernicious thoughts from his mind, to quell the…hunger…yes, that was the feeling… that the helm emanated.  But as hard as he fought, the hunger grew inside.




Cobb smiled beneath the helm.  “Lady, I love that kid more than life itself.  I would gladly lay down my life for his.”  He took two steps towards Haradra.  “Nothing else matters to me.  Nothing.  I would murder the world to protect him.  And I got no problem starting with you!”


Haradra stared down into the intricately crafted death mask of the Helm of Ordune.  Cobb stared up at her defiantly, his arms crossed.  Inside his mind, the helm was gleeful and exuberant.


Yesss!  Yesss!  Let usss help you, Hamish Cobb.  We will gladly spare you for such an offering of death!  Kill her!  Kill the sea itself!  Let your hate flow!


The pair stood there for several minutes silently staring at each other on the ocean floor.  Finally, Haradra gave a casual wave of her hand.




Cobb’s chuckle was harsh and metallic inside the helm.


“Fine,” he grunted.  “Whatever.  Now give me back my grandson!”


Haradra waved her hand and the bubble of air containing Zan floated gently towards Cobb.  When it got within arm’s reach, the bubble enveloped both he and Zan.  He reached out and grabbed the boy in his arms, but Zan looked up at the blood-red helm and tried to pull away from Cobb’s grip.


“No, Zan, it’s okay,” he said reassuringly.  “It’s me, Papa.”


He set Zan down and tried to remove the helm.  It seemed stuck to his head, as if it had shrunk after he donned it.


Nooo…use usss.  Take your revenge on the witch.  Give us our sacrifice!


“No!” Cobb shouted as he pulled harder.  “Get the fuck offa me!”  Finally, he pulled the helm off his head with a scream of pain.  He felt the rough inner surfaces scrape skin off of his face and head as it was removed.


He put the helm under one arm and picked up Zan, still a little frightened by the scene.  As he did, he felt the bubble of air begin rising to the surface.  Looking down, he saw that the spinning top had fallen off the stone altar in front of Haradra.




“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered.  Then he smiled down to Zan and hugged him tighter.  “Don’t worry, my little sailor.  Papa’s got you.  I won’t ever let anything happen to you.  I love you, kid.”


“Love you too, Papa,” Zan said.


The bubble was quickly propelling them to the surface.  “Now, let’s get you home.”